At the Barnes Conference this week, I heard a little Anselm of Canterbury (courtesy of the Treasury of Daily Prayer).
Christian soul, soul raised from sad death, soul redeemed from miserable slavery and set free by the blood of God: rouse your mind, dwell upon your resurrection from the dead, and ponder well the history of your redemption and your liberation. Consider where the strength of your salvation comes from, and what it is. Employ yourself in musing on it, delight yourself in contemplating it; shake off your sloth, do violence to your heart, bend your whole mind to it. Taste the good-ness of your Redeemer, break forth in fires of love for your Saviour. Bite the honeycomb of the words that tell of it, suck their savour more pleasant than honey, swallow their wholesome sweetness. Bite by thinking, suck by understanding, swallow as you love and rejoice. Gladden yourself by biting, exult in suck-ing, fill yourself to the full with joy by swallowing. Where and what is the strength and power of your salvation? Christ, Christ assuredly raised has raised you up again. He, the Good Samaritan, has healed you. He, the good friend, has redeemed you with his life and set you free. Christ, I say, Christ is he. And so the strength of your salvation is the strength of Christ. …
Christian soul, here is the strength of your salvation; here is the cause of your freedom; here is the price of your redemption. You were a captive, but you have been redeemed; you were a slave, but (by him) are made free. And so, an exile, you are brought home; lost, you are reclaimed; and dead, you are restored to life. This let your heart taste, O man [sic], this let it suck, this let it swallow, while your mouth receives the body and blood of your Redeemer. In this present life make this your daily bread, your nourishment, your support in pilgrimage. For by means of this, this and nothing else, you re-main in Christ and Christ in you, and in the life to come your joy shall be full. [Anselm of Canterbury, Book of Meditations and Prayers, Meditation XI, 51,52.]
What struck me as I heard it read out and again as I typed is how physical faith or our relationship with Jesus is described. It made me realise that so often faith and discipleship can be described cerebrally and behaviourally. Maybe Lutherans have an almost DNA aversion to enthusiasm and we want to keep to the fore the perspective that all our living is done under the cross, under a theology of the cross. We live by faith and not sight after all. Nevertheless it is also done in our bodies. Our living is sensory and sensual. We feel. We taste. We experience. Of course we want such experiences – we want to live – in peace and safety with full pantry shelves but we are just as much living in war and conflict and when the cupboards are bare. Health and youth – if blessed with such – give way, we hope to health and age but physical or mental illness and the frailty of age have ways of getting to us because they do get to us – into us – in fact they are us at the time. The me who is fit and healthy today can be the same me bloated with illness in a hospital bed next year. (“Jesus, it’s still me! Do you recognise me?”)
And that is why Anselm’s words might be heard anew. He points us to a bloodied and battered Saviour and to bread and wine – and to God’s salvation. The mystery that these truths for us are sweeter than the honeycomb are part of what faith is all about. It would seem that the Word made flesh engages all our senses, all of our life and each day of our living!